19 September 1998

SPUD STIMULANT

MOVES AHEAD

Is there going to be more profit from potatoes treated with growth stimulant? Here are the results from mid-season digging.

UALITY as well as yield response is going to be a vital factor in covering the cost of growth stimulant added to crops on 15 commercial farms this season.

The monitored trials being staged by Cargill, which markets the carbohydrate-based stimulant Fulcrum CRV, are being sampled regularly by Levington Agriculture and assessed for differences between treated and untreated, one-acre plots throughout the country. Independent assessors from either ADAS, Harper Adams College or the Scottish Agricultural College are monitoring the conduct of the trials for which 200 potato growers originally volunteered their crops.

Preliminary results from the 15 July dig on J E Atkinson and Sons Hacconby Hall Farm, near Bourne, Lincs, were inconclusive in their significance although they showed an increase in tuber weight from the treated area, compared with untreated tubers. Tuber numbers were also increased.

A similar story was uncovered by the 5 August digging (see table) at Hacconby Hall, although now Steve Lucas, of Cargill, points out the treated area carries a higher proportion of potatoes in the key size categories which lead to maximum saleable yield come harvest.

"In an August dig, you should be expecting the sample to be anywhere between 35-45mm so a majority are in the desired 55-60mm category by harvest," he says. Using 5.5-6t/ha per week bulking as a guide will give growers an estimate of how many tubers they should have at harvest.

Mr Lucas adds that processors in the USA are already considering reductions in the base price they pay to producers there, and paying higher premiums based on quality.